What’s So Funny? I’m Not Laughing.

I love to laugh, and I felt vindicated about the immense number of notions that tickled my fancy when studies started showing that laughing improves your health. Some situations deserve a belly laugh, like the time in a restaurant my husband accidently squirted me with mustard when he tried to force a recalcitrant dispenser that wouldn’t budge. Others rate a giggle, like a kid nibbling the bottom of his ice cream cone simply to sample from that end.
My two-year-old grandson finds nearly everything funny: crawling under a table, his grandpa’s twisty faces, even falling on his own head. And everyone around him has to laugh with him because he enjoys chortling so much.
But some things simply aren’t funny. I listen to radio station Comedy 103.1 in Denver, which features recordings of many comedians, most of whom I like. Occasionally I turn one off because he’s just not funny.
Why not? Because the jokes these comedians use are hurtful. They’re often pot shots at people who can’t fight back. One comic made fun of “little people;” another, of “intellectually challenged.” Whether you agree with this type of label or not, the humor can legitimately be directed toward label-makers; but shouldn’t be at the people with these conditions.
The non-funny schtick continues with attacks disguised as humor concerning people trying to get through life the best they can. Maybe an administrative assistant who can’t figure out the latest software program. Young victims of bullying somehow asking for their treatment. Famous people portrayed in an unfairly negative way (i.e., calling Paris Hilton “dense”). I can’t help putting myself smack in the position of these people and wondering how painful the comments must be to them.
I guess that’s why I prefer humor that a comedian directs toward himself or even his family. Even routines that puncture over-inflated egos of the rich and famous based on their real flaws, not characteristics or stuations they have no control over.
Books are different. They offer distance and analysis Even here, humor is a matter of opinon. I read a collection of short stories recently that were touted as humorous and hilarious. The Fun Parts, by Sam Lipsyte features stories that show the author’s unique perspective on off-beat characters rooted in hippy-dom, higher education fanatics, and a dollop of drugginess. I hardly cracked a grin because I found them sad and sensitive. Rather than side-splitting humor, Lipsyte really pays attention to what is tragic in life, and he gives no quarter for human weakness. A challenge to read, but worth the time.

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